You have the right to access sexual health services and to take care of your sexual health.
We know that LGBTQ+ young people might feel awkward or intimidated visiting sexual health services.
We’ve answered some of the most common questions we get from LGBTQ+ young people. We spoke to doctors nurses who work in sexual health services to make sure we could get you all the right information. To help you feel confident to access sexual health services.
If you are trans, the Terrence Higgins Trust has lots of additional information to help you.
A common worry that trans and non-binary people have when visiting sexual health services is that it might trigger dysphoria and make you feel uncomfortable. You might be worried about medical staff using the wrong name, pronouns and terminology to describe your body.
You don’t need to give staff information about your gender identity, but if you are having a check up for STIs you will have to tell the staff member what body parts you have for example, if you have a penis or a vagina. This is so they know what tests they should offer you that are right for your body.
It’s important to be honest about your sexual and medical history, so that the team knows what treatment or support you might need. For example, who you’ve been having sex with and any medication that you may take such as hormones. It can help to remember that staff in the clinic will have had lots of LGBTQ+ patients before, and some may identify as LGBTQ+ themselves
During a routine STI test, you will usually be tested for chlamydia, gonorrhoea and syphilis. If you think you’re experiencing symptoms related to an STI, you should tell the doctor or nurse so they can do the right test.
The type of tests you will need will depend on your anatomy and the type of sex you are having, so the doctor or nurse will ask you some questions about this. Most sexual health services are open to people of all genders, but there are a few which are specifically for men who have sex with men.
Trans and nonbinary people can ask about sexual health services in their Gender Identity Clinic appointments if they have any anxieties about appointments.
During a sexual health appointment, you will be asked questions about your medical and sexual history. This could include:
- When you last had sex
- Whether you’ve had unprotected sex
- Whether you have any symptoms
- Why you think you might have an infection
You can ask to see a female or male doctor or nurse if you prefer, but you might have to wait longer than usual for one to become available.
Here’s what the NHS have to say…
“When you go to a sexual health clinic, you’ll be asked for your name and some contact details.
You don’t have to give your real name if you don’t want to. If you do, it will be kept confidential. Your GP won’t be told about your visit without your permission.
If you have tests and the results aren’t available during your visit, the clinic will need to contact you later, so give them the correct contact details’
The clinic will ask how you want to receive your results. They can usually be given to you over the phone, by text, or in an unmarked letter.”
Most people accessing sexual health services do not need to take any clothes off in front of anyone. There might be times that you may need to, for example if you have a symptom of an STI, have pain in your genitals, or want to have a coil fitted.
You’ll be in a private space and only the doctor or nurse will be able to see you.
If you do need to do this, you can ask for a doctor or nurse of the same gender as you and/or to have a chaperone in the room.
Screenings don’t happen in sexual health services, but are provided by your GP. In Scotland everyone has a CHI number, which identifies you as male or female. If you are transgender and changed your gender marker at your GP after June 2015 you should still be invited for the screenings you need to do with your assigned sex. However, it is worth chatting to your GP about this to make sure that this happens.
For example, if you are a trans man you should get a smear test every 3 to 5 years and you could set yourself a reminder to make sure that you do. If you changed your gender marker before June 2015 you will need to make sure that you find out what screenings you need, and request them. NHS Inform have more information.
You can bring somebody with you if that would help with your anxiety. You can also ask for any other support or adjustments you may need, such as if you need thing explained in a certain way.
If you like to use certain names for your body parts and avoid others, you can explain this to the clinician at the start of your appointment. It can help to write it down if you find the words difficult to say, or to bring someone with you who can help you communicate what you need. You can ask to have your preferred terms put down on your clinical notes for future visits.
You will not be judged at all for your sexual history. The reason medical staff ask about this is so that they understand what treatment to give you and what to recommend. The main thing they want to make sure of is that you are safe and happy with the sex and relationships that you’re having.
You can still get pregnant if you are on testosterone, unless you’re also taking some form of birth control too. It’s important that you use contraception to prevent pregnancy.
STI transmission is much less common through sex between women. However it is still possible for some STIs to be transmitted between women. Some STIs can be transmitted through skin to skin contact, exchanging bodily fluids through fingering, sharing sex toys and oral sex.